History of Mining
The original carbonate outcrop was a large hill known as Loolekop. The surface of the hill was once littered with primitive workings excavated by local tribesmen. Primitive smelting was carried out in the surrounding hills.
The Arabs and possibly even the Phoenicians before them, traded for slaves, gold, ivory and copper in Africa. The Portuguese were amongst the first Europeans to penetrate into the interior. The copper and iron deposits of Loolekop were also known to the Dutch East India Company.
Although a considerable amount of copper was produced over the centuries, very few artifacts have been discovered. The only copper articles known are about 20 strangely shaped ingots locally known as the "mirale" (singular: "lirale") and a few dozen armlets. The mirale consisted of a cylindrical bar 1,5cm thick and 45cm long with a flat cone-shaped end piece and it is believed that they were used as a primitive currency. In the town of Phalaborwa several interlinked armlets were unearthed in a house foundation about 25cm below the surface. These contained 97.8% copper and 1.65% iron.
During the stripping of the surface of Loolekop in 1964, early underground mines were exposed. Some of the ancient shafts were up to 20m deep yet only 38cm wide. The walls of these shafts where smoke-stained and charcoal fragments from the floors of two stopes indicated an age of 1,000-1,200 years.